Ever been to a professional soccer game at a minor league baseball stadium in twenty degree weather?
With about a thousand other loyal (deranged) fans, and about 10,000 empty seats? Wearing camouflage coveralls, ski gloves, and one of those Russian fur hats? Have you?
Which is why it’s pretty sweet that Sporting Kansas City doesn’t play a home game until June 9th, when the new stadium opens.
To be fair, you can sneak a helluva lot of beer in, tucked away in the crevasses of your coveralls…
Major League Soccer recently released the 2011 schedule (posted below), which has SKC playing their first game on March 19th at Chivas USA, then continuing on an epic road trip for another 2 months and nine more games before finally returning home to open their new stadium on June 9th.
Needless to say, it’s tougher to pick up points on the road, so this first stretch is going to be crucial to the success of SKC’s season. If they can’t pick up around 12 points (minimum) in those ten games, the rest of the season might be spent attempting to claw back into the playoff race.
For those not versed (yet!) in MLS, a team gets three points for a win, one for a tie, and zero for a loss. Thus, there are 30 points on the table for the first ten games. So where are those 12 points going to come from?
I’ll lay it out for you:
The first three games are against teams that finished worse off than the Wizards last season (Chivas, Chicago). And the other one (Vancouver) is a brand new expansion team this season. SKC should be able to get at least four points out of these first three – one win, one tie, one loss. Maybe even two wins for six points. But let’s stay conservative an go with four for now.
After that it gets a little dicey. And by a little dicey I mean freaking brutal.
Five of the teams in this stretch (Columbus, New York, LA, Seattle, and Colorado) finished ahead of the Wizards last season, and project to return Top 10 squads. The other one, New England, should be somewhat improved after finishing 2010 at 9-16-5, but is probably going to end up in the bottom half of MLS for 2011. Let’s assume SKC beats New England and one of the others, and ties one. That’s seven more points and we’re now up to at eleven total.
(I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but remember, Colorado won the title last year, LA made the semis and are projected to be the best in the league, and New York and Seattle should be top five. These numbers are what I feel is the absolute MINIMUM that SKC needs in order to hold their heads slightly above water till they return triumphantly to Sprint… Boulevard... Cerner – whatever it’ll be called – Stadium. They could win more…)
The last game of the epic trip – at Toronto – could really go either way. Going along with my projections, a win gives SKC fourteen points (or sixteen if we win two of the first three). Not a bad place to be after a really tough ten game road sojourn. But Toronto is a tricky place to play, one of the best crowds in MLS, so even though Toronto should finish middle of the pack and SKC should be a better squad, getting the full three points will be a challenge.
Mind you, sitting at fourteen points after the first ten games isn’t ideal. But it’s not horrible. Especially considering that after that epic roadie, SKC plays 15 of the next 20 games at home.
Last season, the eighth and final team into the playoffs averaged just over 1.5 points per game. But in 2011 the playoffs are expanded from eight to 10 teams, with the top two in each conference earning automatic bids and the rest allocated by wildcard, regardless of conference. SKC would need fifteen points out of their first ten games to average 1.5 per. (Did that in my head…)
Whew! So there you have it.
For the record, team captain Davy Arnaud isn’t sweating it too much, especially knowing what the team has to come back home to:
"If you told us we had to play 16 road games to open the season, every guy here would say, ‘Absolutely, let’s do it.’ [The new stadium] is going to be a special place for us. … I can’t describe to you how excited we are about getting into a place of our own."
And I can’t describe how excited I am about not wearing my camo coveralls this season.
As a fan, what more could you ask for? I mean, besides results, of course.
2011 SKC Schedule
Date/Time (CT) Opponent TV Info
Mar 19, 9:30 pm @ Chivas USA
Mar 26, 3 pm @ Chicago Fire TeleFutura
Apr 2, 6 pm @ Vancouver Whitecaps
Apr 16, 6:30 pm @ Columbus Crew
Apr 23, 6:30 pm @ New England Revolution
Apr 30, 6:30 pm @ New York Red Bulls
May 14, 9:30 pm @ LA Galaxy
May 21, 9 pm @ Seattle Sounders
May 28, 8 pm @ Colorado Rapids
Jun 4, 6 pm @ Toronto FC
Jun 9, 9 pm Chicago Fire ESPN2
Jun 12, 6 pm @ FC Dallas
Jun 18. 7:30 pm San Jose Earthqukes
Jun 22, 6:30 pm @ Philadelphia Union
Jun 25, 7:30 pm Vancouver Whitecaps
Jul 2, 10 pm @ Portland Timbers
Jul 6, 7:30 pm Colorado Rapids
Jul 9, 6:30 pm Chivas USA Galavision
Jul 16, 7:30 pm @ Houston Dynamo
Jul 23, 7:30 pm Toronto FC
Jul 30, 7:30 pm New England Revolution
Aug 3, 7:30 pm Real Salt Lake
Aug 6, 7:30 pm Seattle Sounders
Aug 13, 7:30 pm LA Galaxy
Aug 17, 7:30 pm Portland Timbers
Aug 21, 6 pm D.C. United Galavision
Aug 27, 7:30 pm FC Dallas
Sep. 10, 3 pm Houston Dynamo TeleFutura
Sep 17, 8 pm @ Real Salt Lake
Sep 24, 7:30 pm Philadelphia Union
Sep 28, 7:30 pm Columbus Crew
Oct 1, 9:30 pm @ San Jose Earthquakes
Oct 15, 3 pm New York Red Bulls TeleFutura
Oct 22, 6:30 pm @ D.C. United